Fantasy Football 2012 – Who is the BEAST in the East?

LANDOVER - SEPTEMBER 12: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball during the NFL season opener against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 12 2010 in Landover Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

*Ranking NFC East WR’s*

With 60+ Mock Drafts under my belt this summer, I can write with complete assurance: "Wide Receivers are DEEP in 2012". Like Mariana Trench kinda DEEP. Like Sam Elliott’s voice kinda DEEP. There are quality starters available into the 6th and 7th Rounds (and beyond). But, does that mean that the position is fungible? That you can just throw a dart and hit a stud? No. My drafts strategy is to focus on TWO things: Value and Upside. And, there is a fair amount of both to be found as we look at one of the richest WR divisions in football, the NFC East.

The NFC East had four of the Top 17 wide outs in 2011 (Cruz – 4, Nicks – 12, Laurent Robinson – 16 and Dez – 17). And several others had some shining moments….as we think back to Miles Austin’s 143y/3 TD game versus the 9ers or Maclin’s 171y/2 TD in ATL, both in Week 2. There is no doubt that the East has a plethora of WR talent, and couple that with great QB play….it equals RESULTS.

But, you’re not looking to draft LAST Year’s Best Team. You’re looking to draft THIS Year’s Best Team. So, let’s see how they stack up in 2012:

(1) Dez Bryant – First of all, Yes, I realize that Dez has had issues staying on the field in his first two years. But, reports out of Dallas have him working as hard as ever on his craft and on conditioning. Simply put, Dez is young, explosive, a physical freak and he has a very strong QB in a pass-happy system. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s in that "magical" 3rd Year; where WR’s traditionally break out! (Remember back to Nicks, Wallace and Harvin in 2011.) AND with LoRo leaving Dallas for the (not so) greener pastures in Jacksonville, the $10,000 Question is "WHO is getting those 11 TD’s and 81 targets??" My guess is Dez, Miles AND Witten, but Romo will be looking Dez’s way, first.

(2) Jeremy Maclin – Remember my strategy from above? "VALUE" is the key to this ranking. Maclin’s current ADP is 53rd. If you can get a rock-solid WR2 in the 6th Round of a 10-team league, then THAT is value. He also has had some injury issues, but remember last year was SUPPOSED to be a bust for him, because of the "mystery illness" that he had in the preseason. He was very productive for those fantasy owners that believed in him and the Philly passing game enough to invest in him. He’ll be even MORE solid in 2012.

(3) Hakeem Nicks – Some of you agree with ranking that I’ve read that have Nicks higher. But, a NYG with a broken foot scares me (need I mention Bradshaw?). That aside, Nicks was 2nd in the NFL last year with FOUR Red Zone TD’s and he has been Eli’s #1 target (163 in 2011). As his ADP continues to fall due to the foot concerns, his value will rise.

(4) DeSean Jackson – With an ADP in the SEVENTH Round, DJax IS the definition of Value and Upside! Fantasy Football owners have such SHORT memories, think WAY WAY back to 2010 (gosh what clothes were we even WEARING way back then??). DeSean had NINE TD’s of 50+ yards. Isn’t that the definition of upside? And when you consider that his ADP has him ranked around players like Shonn Greene, JStew and Garcon….*yawn*, he should be your pick.

(5) Victor Cruz – Ok, HERE is where I just lost some of you. I KNOW that Cruz was the #4 WR in FF last year. But, I’m NOT willing to pay for ONE break out year. Has anyone ever heard of Mike Williams – Tampa Bay?? Oh, I just saw SOME of you squirming in your seat as he was your 3rd Round Pick last year, wasn’t he? How did THAT work out for you? For me, it’s all about REPEATABILITY. Can CAM match the 14 Rushing TD’s from last year? No. Can Gronk match the 17 TD’s from last year? No. Can Jordy hit 15 TD’s? No. And can Cruz match the 595 yards after catch and the 2011 production over 20+ yards? My guess is, No. He IS in his Third Year, also, but I would argue that it’s really his "second", since he didn’t play as a rookie.

(6) Miles Austin – IF ONLY Miles could stay healthy, he would be a beast for Fantasy GM’s. But, with him being the 2nd (or 3rd) receiving option in Dallas….that warrants a #6 ranking on this list. I’d be tickled with him as my WR3/Flex.

(7) Pierre Garcon – Well, I guess I have to rank ONE Redskin, right? Garcon had a career year in Indy last year, which was QUITE an accomplishment, considering the QB’s that were tossing him the ball. That MAY be part of the answer to why he only caught 70 of his 134 targets. Washington PAID him as a #1, but I don’t think he IS a true #1. RG3 is the wild card, and he’ll need SOMEONE to throw to, but I’m guessing the ball will be mixed around with a LOT of targets checking down to the under-drafted Fred Davis.

(8) Dallas’ #3 WR – We’re not sure YET who Dallas’ #3 WR will be…Danny Cole? Dwayne Harris? Ogletree? But, whoever it is WILL have fantasy value. Consider that Laurent Robinson had SIX games in 2011 where he had more than 10 Fantasy Points (non-PPR). Three of those WERE when Miles was out, but the OTHER three were when Dez and Miles were both on the field. Long story short, there is enough production to go around in Big D.

Also, keep an eye on the Giant’s #3 with Manningham gone to SF as rookie Rueben Randle MAY make some noise. Also, Cooper in Philly may have some value, Hankerson is worth a look, and if Santana falls….he MAY be worth a LATE LATE look.

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